The Severed Continuum: Soviet Realism and the Case of The Silent Don
The continuity of Russian realism has always been a controversial issue. After the Russian Revolution, the wholesale rejection of cultural tradition by many left-wing artists and critics also entailed a rejection of classic mimetic forms. Futurists, Constructivists and Suprematists rejected representational art as a relic of bourgeois individualism and committed themselves to new experimental techniques in poetry, film, drama and architecture. In the sphere of literature LEF and On Guard, the magazine of the Na Postu group, made violent attacks upon pre-revolutionary literature. Advocating a didactic, proselytising literature they rejected representational fiction as static and conservative and hence useless in the task of politicising the masses through art. Later, in 1928, the various anti-mimetic groups became absorbed into the new proletarian writers’ organisation of Leopold Averbakh, RAPP. New forms of attack were made on representational art, less by rejecting the principle as such than by subjecting it to criteria which were severely constricting. Class background, active commitment to the party, and the choice of fictive themes relevant to the tasks of socialist construction were all weighed positively. Their absence provoked condemnation and often a refusal to publish. But the constrictions upon realist literature which increased rapidly during the period of the first Five-Year plan were nothing compared with the official dogma which ended RAPP’s literary dictatorship.
KeywordsLiterary Tradition Active Commitment Social Privilege Wholesale Rejection Tragic Hero
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- 1.See Roy A. Medvedev, Problems in the Literary Biography of Mikhail Sholokhov (trans. A. D. P. Briggs) (Cambridge 1977)Google Scholar
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn, ‘Sholokhov and the riddle of “The Quiet Don”’, Times Literary Supplement (4 October 1974), p. 1056Google Scholar
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